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Long Life Cathode Heaters for Hollow Cathodes

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX16CP43P
Agency Tracking Number: 156359
Amount: $125,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: H2.03
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2016
Award Year: 2016
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2016-06-10
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2016-12-09
Small Business Information
19501 144th Avenue North East, Suite F-500
Woodinville, WA 98072-4423
United States
DUNS: 000000000
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Ashley Bissell
 Senior Scientist
 (425) 485-7272
Business Contact
 Karen Valdastri
Title: Business Official
Phone: (425) 485-7272
Research Institution

Present and future NASA missions, including the Asteroid Redirect Mission and efficient cargo delivery to mars, require a substantial increase in lifetime for ion engines and Hall thrusters. This has led to the development of long-life lanthanum hexaboride (LaB6) hollow cathode emitters, which operate at temperatures >1600⁰C. Current state-of-the-art co-axial swaged cathode heaters use magnesium oxide (MgO) insulators, which experience a significant drop in insulation resistance at temperatures of 1300⁰C, causing heater failure. Hollow cathode failure caused by the failure of an external cathode heater is the single most critical event that controls the thruster lifetime. While alumina (Al2O3) has recently been used as a replacement insulator material, it has questionable reliability due to grain growth and void formation at temperatures >1600⁰C.

In Phase I, we will formulate a new ceramic insulator using sound scientific principles, and develop a long-life cathode heater that can operate reliably at high power levels (>200 W) at high temperatures greater than 1600⁰C for use in long duration space propulsion missions. We will design, fabricate and test prototype swaged coaxial heaters to demonstrate the superior performance of the new insulators.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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